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“There is a democratic surplus waiting to be spent by people hesitating to participate because 1) they are unaware of how many other people share their cares regarding their communities 2) they are unsure about the best first step or 3) they do not realize how important their skills, expertise, and experiences are to finding innovative solutions.”  

Erik W. Johnston is an Associate Professor of the Policy Informatics School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University (ASU) and the Director of the Center for Policy Informatics.

Johnston’s research focuses on Policy informatics, the study of how computational and communication technology is leveraged to specifically understand and address complex public policy and administration problems and realize innovations in governance processes and institutions. His research explores how our governance systems can evolve to address increasingly complex challenges, and to meet the rising expectations of people to be full participants in their governance systems, what changes we need to make in technology, processes, institutional capacity and social norms to realize that future. For example, stakeholders are becoming more diverse, unequal, vocal and polarized, which will require the development of effective solutions, including creative approaches to collaborative governance, participatory decision-making and the ability to identify and mitigate the causes of social and environmental conflict. Urbanization and climate change are anticipated to increase societal challenges related to human-environment interactions, particularly with respect to environmental health and natural hazards. Reducing health and infrastructure vulnerability to current and future threats requires innovative, interdisciplinary approaches integrating basic and applied natural and social science in a framework that not only provides stakeholders with new evidence to support effective decision-making, but also accelerates the identification of the next series of important questions that research must address. These interests are catalyzed through three current research focuses: open governance, participatory modeling, and smarter governance infrastructures.

A dedicated action researcher, Johnston leads the team at ASU that is studying how people come together to collaborate, using 10,000 Solutions, a university-wide challenge platform to propose answers to every problem from education to human rights. He is also the driving force behind the ASU Policy Challenge, an ideation contest for contributing policy suggestions to the White House. Johnston is the author of “Design Lessons for Smart Governance Infrastructures,” a chapter in American Governance 3.0: Rebooting the Public Square? His many publications include “The influence of collaboration on program outcomes: The Colorado Nurse-Family Partnership,” “A Computational Approach to Managing Performance Dynamics in Networked Governance Systems,” “Governance Infrastructures in 2020” and “Managing the Inclusion Process in Collaborative Governance.”

With undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Psychology as well as an M.B.A. and Masters of Science in Information Technology from the University of Denver, Johnston holds a Ph.D. in Information from the University of Michigan with a certificate on complex systems.